Friday, July 06, 2007

Back with a Vengeance II: The Profligate Weird

Perhaps as a consequence of the relatively recent ‘Weird Realism’ conference at Goldsmiths College, the concept of the ‘weird’ suddenly seems profligate online - particularly as a focal point of academic inquiry. It may be just me, but this seems a typical strategy of the academy (especially within the realm of the social and cultural ‘sciences’): namely the (jaded, populist) theoretical encompassing and championing of anything which smacks of the marginal, anomalous and oppositional simply as a consequence of said phenomenon’s perceived oppositional nature.

Academia is by its nature elitist and while I don't want to be accused of anti-intellectualism, the need to categorically define concepts such as ‘the weird’ and to erase any sense of the porousness of their boundaries smacks of a kind of 'colonisation of consciousness' and often prefigures the commodification and emasculation of said terms/concepts.

As an aside, I’m curious why the notion of ‘the weird’ (including the much vaunted ‘new weird’) has suddenly gained wide currency, particularly with regard to Lovecraft. In fact, Lovecraft seems to have used the term interchangeably with ‘the supernatural’ and also as an adjunct to - but in this instance not necessarily interchangeably with - his own cosmic indifferentism (granted, I might need to dig up some quotes to justify this). One wonders if there a danger lies in this tangential sideslip toward a concern with the weird: namely that of diverting attention from the more challenging problem of the cosmic (whose presence in Lovecraft's tales threatens to overthrow all categorical distinctions as the product of anthropocentric thought).

1 comment:

  1. Hello again. Much of this has to come from Mieville - there was some discussion of the 'new weird' tag on various SF etc boards a few years ago. Mieville is not daft and is clearly a genuine fan of HPL, WH Hodgson etc etc. He also knows his branding, sorry, movement-building, and so seemed v conscious of rejecting the word 'fantasy' (for its reactionary connotations). Hence finding a new set of 'fathers' like HPL as well as more recent inspirations like M John Harrison. All well and good but (given Mieville's stratospheric rise and the popularity of alt.fantasy generally) I think we're well into the moment when weird becomes 'normal science'.

    I'm not going to read any of the Goldsmith lot's attempts to grapple with it, because it will only annoy me... :)